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Gov. Brad Little this afternoon vetoed his first bill of the 2020 legislative session, nixing HB 325a, which would have doubled the current 1% shift of state sales tax revenues to roads in the coming year, bringing the shift up to roughly $36 million a year. The money would otherwise go to the state's general fund, which funds public schools, prisons, health and welfare programs and more.

"Due to the uncertainty in the coming fiscal year and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, I am vetoing this legislation because it results in a fiscal impact to Idaho's general fund," Little wrote in his veto message. "The maintenance and growth of our transportation infrastructure remains a vital commitment of the state of Idaho, and I encourage the Idaho Legislature to pursue a comprehensive package when the state is facing a more positive economic outlook."

HB 325a was sponsored by Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, the House Transportation Committee chairman. He also sponsored the previous legislation several years ago that shifted 1% of state sales tax revenues off the top, currently about $18 million, to roads; this bill sought to double the transfer. Idaho has long funded transportation from dedicated fund sources, including the gas tax and vehicle registration fees, rather than dipping into the general funds, where roads would compete for funding with other major state programs. The bill was amended twice; the Senate amended it to shift 40% of the new total to a local bridge maintenance and repair fund to be overseen by the Idaho Transportation Department. 

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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